Celebrity Masterchef – Week Two

It’s only week two of Masterchef and I’m already beginning to give up hope of making it through the run without resorting to self-harm or booze. The relentless tests, constant tension, unnecessary pauses and recaps: it’s just too much!

Maybe watching all five episodes while hungover on Sunday was a mistake.

The series is settling down into a recognisable pattern: skills, mystery box, teamwork, proper kitchen, own food, journey etc. There’s also much less self-parody than before: John and Gregg don’t lapse into cliché or make “ooh” noises at each other and several times this week seemed genuinely concerned for their own stomachs, the safety of the contestants and the sanity of the very nice lady from the London Ambulance Service who let a bunch of talentless disorganised idiots destroy her kitchen and keep 200 staff waiting for their dinners.

This week’s four judges included Aggie Mackenzie, who is half of the ‘Kim’n’Aggie’ entity from Channel 4 tidying up show “How Little Self-Respect Do You Have?” and is also a very good cook. She knows the basics, has some good skills and can cook a range of dishes. Unfortunately, Aggie has absolutely no self confidence. Her nerves, panic, lack of attention to detail and an inability to season things properly let her down, especially in the pro-kitchen where she suffered the ultimate indignity of being taken off service for being too slow.

Tim Lovejoy is a serial name-dropper, radio phone-in host, Chelsea fan, all round annoying lad about town and PRESENTER OF A TV COOKERY SHOW. Tim, who has written TWO cook books, keeps saying that he doesn’t know what to do, and then makes unbelievable food. This is probably to do with all the time he spends IN A KITCHEN, COOKING WITH A TOP CHEF. I’ve often watched Something for the Weekend over the last five years and it’s clear Tim has learned an awful lot about cooking – but the thing about TV cookery is that all the dull, basic time-wasting stuff gets done in advance because a) it’s boring and b) there’s an assumption that people know what they’re doing.

For example, Tim didn’t know how to make a crumble topping, seemed unfamiliar with how to peel a potato, had never used a wok and had never seen a sponge cake in its raw form. He then went on to make perfect Scotch quails eggs and a piccalilli sauce from scratch. Tim may well go far in this competition: He struggles to make things up on the spot, but can follow instructions very well and has an excellent range of dishes, most of which can be found in advance by searching the BBC food website for “Simon Rimmer” (resident chef on Something for the Weekend).

Actress and professional Scouser Margi Clarke is a typical Northern mum: she cooks with love, potatoes and a desire for everyone to be happy. Out of the four contestants this week, she’s the one whose house I’d like to go round for my tea – in one round she cooked a massive bowl of Scouse (a sort of lamb stew: she didn’t grind up and serve her relatives), and managed to pack it full of flavour despite it only having a third of the usual cooking time.

However, she doesn’t have a clue about presentation, refinement or not making your ingredients explode all over the studio like a creamy Exorcist. If she could get things to be a bit prettier, move away from traditional North-Western dishes such as wall-to-wall suet oiled with lard and learn that not everyone has the appetite of her kids, then she’d be an absolute star.

Eastenders actress Shobu ‘Gita’ Kapoor is a vegetarian, and before the show had never cooked meat or fish. The producers of Masterchef were sympathetic to her lack of experience: task one was making crab ravioli, task two involved cooking an octopus.  Luckily Shobu was eliminated on Wednesday, before the remaining contestants had to pull the still-beating heart out of some calves’ ribcages, like a cross between All Creatures Great and Small & Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Shobu is another good home cook, but by the time she got to make food of her own she panicked.  Her timings were all over the place and she wasn’t going anywhere. It was a real shame that she left the competition early, but she was just too limited (I don’t watch Eastenders, insert your own Sanjay jokes here, thanks).

The final round involved cooking for the WI again:  one of them dressed as Peter Davison era Doctor Who. There was less murder in the air this week;  they all agreed that some dishes were better than others and didn’t show off about their own recipes. I think that they should be plied with martinis before any future shows to ramp up the tension, although they did make a brilliant joke about Aggie’s plates being clean – somebody call Lee Nelson.

Yet again at the final judging, John and Gregg couldn’t make their minds up so Margi went home and both Tim and Aggie went through. Aggie cried, Tim had the smug look of a man who always knew he would get through and Simon Rimmer
cackled from his throne room about the success of his “Young Apprentice”.

MASTERCHEF WEEK TWO SUMMARY

Through: Aggie Mackenzie, Tim Lovejoy

Out: Shobu Kapoor, Margi Clarke

Dish of the week:

Tim’s smoked haddock fishcakes with tartare sauce. Golden, crispy and delicious looking.


Gregg and John’s love at the movies: There’s something about Mary

John (Cameron Diaz): Today we’re making Sticky Toffee Pudding, butterscotch sauce and custard

Gregg (Ben Stiller ): Nnnng

John: Is that… is that hair gel?

Shout of the week:
Nothing, again. It’s almost like the whole John and Gregg shouting thing is a myth that lazy internet telly reviewers churn out because they think they’re funny. Oh.

In the absence of that, line of the week goes to Aggie, who declared at the ambulance station: “We’ll make peach cobbler for pudding. What’s peach cobbler?”

 Strictly come spooning (With Len Goodman): Four bowls of sticky toffee pudding put down your neck like you were using a trowel? Then you got to dig into a trifle? You’re in Hog Heaven old son – a solid SEVEN!

Uncle Graeme’s alternative mystery box recipe:

I’ve never cooked octopus, but I do love a Spanish fish stew filled with smoked paprika and saffron and I’m sure octopus would go beautifully in it. I have no idea of timings, so here’s James Martin’s take on it:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/catalanstylesquidand_87980

Enjoy.

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